Introduction to Type One lifeforms
Type One life represents over 95 per cent of all life on our planet. Lifeforms range from microscopic single cell organisms no larger than 0.2μm long to interconnected multicellular vegetive clones that can reach more than 25 kilometres (some have claimed to have found specimens twice as long) in length.
All Type One life demonstrates the concept of the cell as the basic building block of life. Type One cells share all the attributes of Type Two lifeform cells, but differ in the constituents used to build the cell. Almost all cells possess the following capabilities:
- reproduction - cells can, through a variety of means, produce copies of themselves
- they metabolise chemicals in order to repair, grow, move and reproduce - a process which involves the transfer of materials across a cell membrane
- cell metabolism is regulated through a system of amino acid based enzymes and proteins and chemical co-factors, which is in turn controlled through the expression of information encoded within nucleic acid based chains
- cells respond to stimuli, in particular to external stimuli such as the presence or absence of chemicals or light sources; this response may involve movement, growth, protective measures or reproduction
Type One lifeforms are genetically mediated lifeforms, in that much of the information required to produce a particular cell is contained within nucleic acid polymer chains such as ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which is passed from a parent cell to child cells through the process of cell reproduction. In particular, all Type One life is susceptible to genetic mutation, and thus to evolutionary pressure leading to the development of different kingdoms, families and species of lifeforms, whose history can be organised into a branching hierarchy of life.
The feral Kingdoms of Type One life
|kingdom||DNA structure||ribosome form||internal organisation||external organisation||organism size|
|microfilm||toric||Form C||membranous||multi-species colonies||3-80μm|
|germula||pseudo- chromosome||Form B||structured||unicellular||10-800μm|
|vegetive||pseudo- chromosome||Form B||symbiotic||multicellular||0.4mm - 2.5km|
|chimeric||chromosome||Form A||symbiotic||multicellular||0.8mm - 20m|
Types of DNA structure
The collection of genetic information into hereditable units is a key signature of all lifeforms. For Type One life, there are three different methods for managing this task.
The simplest method (analagous to plasmids seen in Type Two bacteria) is to collect the DNA in discrete rings of related genes, triggers and controls. Each ring is known as a torus. The benefits of the toric system is that a torus of DNA may be shared between different cells without the need to undertake a full growth/reproduce cycle. Indeed, it has been shown that such swapping activities can take place between otherwise unrelated species, to the benefit of both. However, this can also be seen as a disbenefit: rogue toruses exist, which are capable of hijacking a cell for the rapid production of copies of itself - reminiscent of the activity of Type Two life viruses, though these rogue toruses do not appear to have developed a virus-like transmission system of protein capsules. Toruses float free within the cell matrix, but tend to gather together in particular areas of the cell.
An advance on the toric system can be seen in the pseudo-chromosomes of the germulas and vegetives. Here, the toruses are aggregated together into much larger clusters which are transferred to the next generation as single units. Control mechanisms have been largely seperated from genes and triggers, and non-coding structural elements also make up a significant part of the pseudo-chromosome. Unlike toruses, pseudo-chromosomes will be closely associated with membranes and other structures within the cell matrix.
Type One lifeform chromosomes are direct analogues of their Type Two counterparts. Here, the torus is no longer the storage mechanism of choice; rather all genes and most of the triggers and controls are chained together in long strands of DNA which are then gathered together as chromosomes, which are kept separate from the rest of the cell by a porous nucleic membrane. This is the method used by all vermic and chimeric lifeforms.
Forms of ribosome
The ribosome is a critical element in all cells, as it is the tool which translates DNA genes (via RNA) into amino acid chains, and then folds those chains to form proteins and enzymes. Type One lifeforms have a radically different ribosome to that seen in Type Two lifeforms, in that it is a single, large, flexible complex of RNA and protein molecules rather than the Type Two combination of two or three separate complexes which only become active when joined together around the translation strand.
Within Type One lifeforms, variations in ribosome structures can be found. Form C ribosomes are the smallest and simplest forms, which operate like a hinged trap around the length of the translation strand. Form B ribosomes are much larger and more complex, though they operate on a similar basis to their Form C counterparts; some scientists have suggested that they are in fact double ribosomes with two channels for simultaneous transcription, though this remains controversial and, as yet, unproven. Form A ribosomes are not as large as their Form B counterparts, and appear to have unequally sized halves, suggesting that the smaller half may operate like a clasp while the translation is performed by the much larger half - again, the exact mechanism of the translation operation has not yet been determined.
Internal organisation of the cell
The simplest Type One lifeforms have cells that show little in the way of internal organisation. The lipid-based cell membrane is the major organelle, controlling the intake of nutrients and export of waste into the cell matrix fluid. The cell membrane also generates protective cell walls. Filaments used for motility are extruded from the cell membrane, and chemical and light receptor molecules are embedded within it. The cell matrix itself houses the complex of toruses and ribosomes that control the cell's metabolism and reproductive strategy, and also provides the biochemical mechanisms for energy and material storage.
A step up from the simple cell is the membranous cell. Here, discrete portions of the cell matrix house internal cell membranes upon which many of the metabolic and environmental response functions can be anchored. For germula and vegetive cells, this organisation is underpinned by a crystalline support structure.
The most sophisticated cells are formed through symbiotic relationships, with the main cell hosting a range of much smaller 'degenerate' cells which cannot exist independently outside of the cell matrix. These guests perform specific, discrete functions such as energy generation, energy storage and release, material storage, waste management or defence.
Co-operation between cells
The definition of a unicellular lifeform is that it should be capable of surviving, thriving and reproducing in an environment not of its own making. This distinction is important when considering Type One lifeforms as many single cell 'species' are capable of forming colonial organisms which can act in concert on their surrounding environment. The definition of a multicellular lifeform is that the vast majority of the organism's cells are not capable of surviving outside of the environment created within the organism.
The benefit of forming a colonial or multicellular organism is that cells can specialise to perform specific duties within the organisation, for the benefit of all. These functions are often housed within discrete organs within the organism, which are connected together by some form of transport system to move nutrients, signals and wastes around the body of the organism where they can do the most benefit or least harm.
The alternation of generations
An alternation of generations occurs where the offspring of a particular organism has a radically different morphology to its parent, which in turn will produce offspring that takes a similar form to its grandparents. Type One lifeforms are marked by their propensity to embrace the principles of this form of differentiation; where alternation of generations occurs in Type Two lifeforms (such as plants) one of the generations will tend to be far more dominant than the other, whereas there are many examples of a more equal spread of the generations in Type One species. A different form of alternation, that where an organism will take on radically different morphologies at different stages of its lifecycle (as shown in bees and various parasites) is a less common strategy in Type One lifeforms - though it does occur.